As a field marketing manager, I’ve been to my fair share of tradeshows. In fact, I’ve planned, packed for, and pretty much done all the logistics leading up to some events. So, you could say that “tradeshow” is my middle name! But, over the years, I admit I’ve forgotten things here and there and wish I had done this or that ahead of time as well. After spending much time reflecting on this topic, I want to share my wisdom with you so that you can (hopefully!) avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made. Enjoy these tips!
When you’re packing weeks before the tradeshow to meet that warehouse deadline, you are bound to miss some important items as you run around in a flurry. So, make sure to always include the following:
1. Raffle sign and business card collector (fish bowls make excellent card-holding devices)
We all know there is a lot of noise at tradeshows, so you need to find a way to stand out and draw attention. Come up with a fun idea for an appealing raffle item (some popular items: Beats By Dre headphones, GoPro, Apple Watch) to draw leads into your booth—especially if it’s a show where you don’t have a leads’ badge scanner. Ask visitors to drop in their business card to enter your raffle, and take the opportunity to provide them some more information about your company’s offerings.
2. Sign-up sheets
Forgetting business cards is super common, but have no fear, there’s another way to capture leads’ information. (By the way, take this as a subtle cue not to forget your business cards either!) So, have someplace where people can sign up for communications from your company and be entered in your raffle. Enter the handy sign-up sheet! It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to get the job done! You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to connect with a prospect just because you didn’t come prepared.
3. Content and Collateral
Always have on hand pieces of content that explain your company and its products/services. Make sure to have a combination of pieces so that there will be something to appeal to every audience: a fun and super visual one like an infographic, a data sheet that summarizes your offerings, and a heartier piece (e.g. The Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation.)
4. Giveaways (aka SWAG)
At SiriusDecisions Summit this year, we gave away selfie sticks! This was in conjunction with discussions about our new mobile engagement offerings. These trendy gadgets were definitely a conversation starter and brought attention to our booth. Here are some other ideas of swag to pass out to tradeshow attendees: portable power banks for phones, lip balm, USB drives, t-shirts and hoodies, and blankets (which are perfect for wintertime shows.) Just remember that all your swag should be branded so that people remember you long after the tradeshow lights go down.
5. Branded tablecloth and pull-up banner with company messaging
Speaking of branding, make sure that your booth screams your company’s name! It doesn’t matter whether you have a comfortable 10×10 space or if you only have a small area with a 6-foot table. If it’s the latter, be sure to bring a branded tablecloth for your table and a pull-up banner with details about your company’s offerings. Remember: it’s not the size of the space—it’s what you do with it that counts!
As simple as they are (and as easy as they are to pack!), people forget these all the time. These don’t need to be branded, but they’re important! How else are you going to keep notes on attendees and/or collect their information for subscriptions?
If you represent a software company, you’ll likely want at least one monitor to give interactive demos to interested visitors. Regardless of company type, you should plan for at least one monitor to show a fun video that gives an idea of what your company does.
On-Site Survival Kit
What you ship is just as imperative as what you carry with you to have on site. Consider these essentials:
1. Staff contact information
Gather your staff’s cell phone numbers and details of their travel plans. This will help ensure that the booth is staffed at the right times and that you’re able to contact your staff members should they go MIA. (This WILL happen, so make sure you’re prepared.)
2. Power strip and extension cord
Make sure to pack at least one power strip and extension cord in your bag to use in case the shipment doesn’t get there on time. Why? For plugging in and charging those essential cell phones and laptops, that’s why! (For the phone in particular, you need to stay in touch with your staff, so you can’t be gambling with a 12% battery level at any moment.) Once, I neglected to bring a power strip and extension cord, and so I ended up having to run out to the nearest Staples (near, being a relative term.) Sure, they’re available for rent at the show, but that’ll put you back $50, so it was better to buy some at $10 (even with the irritating trek across town). So, I preach to you: don’t waste your precious time or money—prepare ahead of time!
If you forget scissors, you’ll be opening that first shipment box with your house keys or a pen (considering you don’t forget those either!) Avoid the pre-show workout struggle (and the sweat that comes with it) and remember to pack away some scissors.
4. Packing tape
After the show is over, you’ll need to pack up your boxes and seal ‘em tight with some packing tape. Make sure to bring enough otherwise you may find yourself begging your tradeshow supplier to use their tape…and they may even charge you!
5. Snacks and water
Keep your staff well-hydrated and well-fed at the booth; no one wants to talk to a hungry person (yikes!) It’s important to keep that energy up so that your brand can be well-represented.
6. Comfortable shoes
Protect those tootsies! Leave the high heels at home, and order extra carpet padding for your booth if you can. It’s worth the investment…trust me!
Side note: The best $70 I ever spent was for a 30-minute foot massage in the Las Vegas airport after a long show, but I recommend sparing your wallet by being prepared with comfortable footwear. Airports jack up prices on everything!
Yes, we live in the digital age, but sometimes you just need to reference that important piece of paper. Plus, you never know when technology will fail you. Call me “old school”, but I print my important receipts, order confirmations, and travel documents and bring them with me in a manila folder. I also print extra copies of the booth staff schedule; people may not be as organized as you and this will help them stay focused. It keeps my mind at ease knowing that should I need something, it’s just at my fingertips! (and not something I can only access with a strong WiFi signal…)
I encourage you to work off of a master document in order to track the typical items that you need for your tradeshow participation. Check them off one by one as you pack each item. This is the best way to keep yourself organized (and sane!) If you’re anything like me, with each checkmark you make, the more satisfied you’ll feel! (It’s important to start off your trip on the right foot!)
Wooo! Now that’s a list! But, I’m curious, have I forgotten anything? What are some other items that you make sure to remember on your way to a tradeshow? Do you have any stories from missing vital pieces? I’d love to hear them (so that you can help me, too!)